Transparency

D.C. Circuit rules in favor of Prison Legal News' appeal against Bureau of Prisons

Jacob Donnelly | Freedom of Information | News | June 12, 2015
News
June 12, 2015

The Federal Bureau of Prisons's categorical justification of redactions in a freedom of information suit filed by Prison Legal News was not appropriate, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled last week.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed an amicus brief in the case.

In FOIA cases, the government has the burden of showing that an exemption is warranted. The prison bureau initially produced no records and denied PLN’s request for a fee waiver after PLN filed a FOIA request in 2003 seeking all documents related to the money the bureau paid in connection with lawsuits and claims brought against the bureau from January 1, 1996, to July 31, 2003.

Reporters Committee urges Virginia legislature to reject execution secrecy bill

Adam Marshall | Freedom of Information | Commentary | February 12, 2015
Commentary
February 12, 2015

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has sent a letter to the Virginia House of Delegates urging them to reject Senate Bill 1393, which would exempt crucial information on the drugs used in executions, as well as the pharmacies that produce them and any investigations into those pharmacies, from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Virginia FOIA). The bill passed the Virginia Senate Tuesday by a vote of 23 to 14.

FBI failed to disclose violations of surveillance statute, watchdog report shows

Hannah Bloch-Wehba | Commentary | January 14, 2015
Commentary
January 14, 2015

Yesterday, the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Justice (OIG) released its 2012 report on Activities Under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 for the first time. When the report was originally issued, it was classified and not disclosed to the public. The report, in redacted form, was released in response to a FOIA lawsuit filed by The New York Times, and reveals that the FBI failed to report that it illegally collected information on individuals inside the United States.

Grand jury secrecy comes at a cost

Tom Isler | Secret Courts | News | January 13, 2015
News
January 13, 2015

Two new lawsuits are challenging the continued secrecy of the grand jury investigations related to the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y. The suits demonstrate just how secret the information gathered by a grand jury is, while also making a compelling case for the public interest in greater access.

Calif. Supreme Court rules names of officers involved in on-duty shootings are public record

Bradleigh Chance | Freedom of Information | News | May 30, 2014
News
May 30, 2014

The Supreme Court of California this week upheld a lower court ruling requiring a police department to release the names of officers involved in on-duty shootings.

In December 2010, Los Angeles Times reporter Richard Winton asked the Long Beach City Attorney‘s Office for the names of the two police officers who shot and killed a man in Los Angeles.

The officers were responding to a resident’s tip about an intoxicated man carrying a six-shooter though the neighborhood. When they arrived on the scene, they found 35-year-old Douglas Zerby. According to the officers, Zerby held up an object resembling a gun and the two of them reacted by firing shots and killing him. When the officers approached his body, they could see that the object Zerby was holding was actually a garden hose with a pistol grip spray nozzle.

Cherokee Nation council considers changes to FOI law

Danielle Keeton-Olsen | Freedom of Information | News | May 29, 2014
News
May 29, 2014

The Rules Committee of the Cherokee Nation’s tribal council voted 14-3 Wednesday in favor of changes to the tribe’s Freedom of Information Act, extending the government’s records request response time and centralizing requests in a single independent ombudsman.

Cherokee Phoenix photo by Will Chavez

Protesters gather outside a meeting where a legislative committee was considering restrictive amendments to the open records laws of the Cherokee Nation.

New report ranks state government spending transparency

Emily Grannis | Freedom of Information | News | April 9, 2014
News
April 9, 2014

A report released Tuesday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund awarded eight states a grade of A for comprehensive websites detailing public spending, while three states received Fs.

Indiana ranked the highest of all the states, earning 94 of 100 possible points. Oregon, Florida, Texas, Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont and Wisconsin all earned 90 or more points.

The three lowest ranking states were Idaho, Alaska and California, with California pulling in the lowest score: 34 out of 100.

House passes FOIA reform bill

Emily Grannis | Freedom of Information | News | February 26, 2014
News
February 26, 2014

The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday unanimously passed the FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act, paving the way for more streamlined Freedom of Information Act request processing and a stronger role for the independent agency charged with reviewing government compliance.

H. B. 1211 creates a presumption of openness, allowing a document to be withheld only if an agency “reasonably foresees that disclosure would cause specific identifiable harm to an interest protected by an exemption, or if disclosure is prohibited by law.” Current FOIA law simply instructs agencies to release non-exempt information, rather than starting from the presumption that all information should be released and only then applying narrow exemptions.

Tech companies call on government to end bulk data collection and reform other surveillance policies

Jamie Schuman | Secret Courts | News | December 9, 2013
News
December 9, 2013

Eight leading technology companies called on the U.S. government Monday to end bulk data collection of Internet communications and to lead a worldwide effort to implement other reforms to surveillance policies.

The groups – AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo – detailed five proposed reforms on a website and in a letter to President Obama and the U.S. Congress. They want courts that review surveillance policies to use a clear legal framework, have adversarial proceedings and publicize big decisions. They also are asking that governments limit their authority to collect data to specific, known users; allow companies to publish the number and nature of demands for records; respect the free flow of information across borders; and work to avoid conflicts amongst nations in policies that govern data requests.

Tech companies in lawsuit must identify paid journalists and bloggers, federal court rules

Amanda Simmons | Content Regulation | News | August 15, 2012
News
August 15, 2012

Media advocates are concerned about a federal court order that compels two technology companies involved in a drawn-out patent infringement lawsuit to disclose the names of writers they paid to comment about the case.

Google and Oracle, a computer technology corporation, have until Friday to identify any journalists or bloggers they paid for writing about the case, ruled Judge William Alsup of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.